Is the Real Problem With the Real Estate Industry the Clients? Maybe

I was asked again last week to contribute a response at Inman News to a provocative article from Brad Inman.  Last time, he wrote about the potential disruption of the broker-agent relationship from online portals, in the way that Uber has disrupted the traditional limousine industry’s relationship with drivers.  And in my response, I challenged the idea that technology might be as disruptive as people think it’s going to be, but then argued that if it does happen, it’s the brokerage industry’s fault for not creating a better experience for our clients.

This time, Brad suggests that the industry has been too focused on marketing and customer acquisition at the expense of a concentration on improving the customer service experience, and that technology startups might be a driver toward changing that experience:

But the current discussion should not be about revenue models, it is about who can fundamentally change the old ways of doing business. For now, everyone is focused on marketing and customer acquisition, including Zillow, Trulia,,, etc., not the overall consumer flow from home search to closing. Regrettably, the identity and the reality of the industry has always been about marketing, sales, recruiting and advertising. The old-school model continues to win, with the portals playing a role in the cabal.


But more change is needed, and opportunity and lighter technology will drive it. The company that offers a complete and superior consumer platform will have valuations more like Uber and Airbnb — $10 billion today and rising.

The winner will present an integrated combination of a stellar front end with a robust CRM and transaction management system on the back end, offering a connected, elegant and easy-to-use online place for buyers and sellers as they go through the rigorous 90-day workout.

The challenge in responding to this argument is that I essentially agree with it — I’ve been saying for years that the industry needs to be more client-oriented, that we need to change our focus from our own needs (lead acquisition) toward providing them with a better experience.  So I basically agree with him.

So my response took a bit of an angle on his argument, pointing out that the problem is not the technology — which I think already exists at some companies. Rather, the problem is that we don’t have enough good agents to implement that technology, and the reason for that is that the clients are just not choosy enough!  That is, clients are willing to work with lousy agents, and because of that they create all the wrong incentives — agents put money and time into marketing because they see clients respond to that, clients who would be better off doing a more rigorous vetting process to find a great agent, but who simply work with whoever answers their internet lead, the phone on their incoming inquiry, or sits the open house when they’re at the right point in their purchasing process.

Having read the piece now that it’s out, I’m a little concerned that people will  think I’m letting the brokerage industry off the hook. I’m not.  Basically, I think that we are the ones who have created the consumer perception that all agents are the same, that they’re all salespeople, and that they don’t need to be selective in choosing one. It’s really our fault.

It’s kind of a self-reinforcing loop: we do a bad job of differentiating our services, leading to commodification; clients see us as a commodity, so they believe all are the same and don’t feel they need to be selective; and agents see how clients respond to marketing and lead generation techniques, rather than performance and track record, and invest their time and energies accordingly.

Take a look, and if you have comments feel free to make them on the Inman piece.

How CORE Can Help Real Estate Brokers Reduce Risks and Ensure Regulatory Compliance

My friend and colleague JP Endres-Fein, who happens to be the incoming President of the New York State Association of REALTORS, is giving a presentation today at the NAR Conference on how Client-Oriented Real Estate can help reduce risks and ensure regulatory compliance.  I am delighted that she’s bringing the CORE concept to a larger stage, particularly by taking an angle that we haven’t really discussed here on the blog.

As a trainer of real estate agents, my main focus on this blog is writing about how CORE can impact an agent’s career by making her better at her job — delivering better service, creating happier clients, and thereby growing her business.  And that’s really important.  But as a broker with about 800 agents, I developed CORE precisely because I wanted my agents to provide a higher quality experience to their clients — not just because I thought it would be good for business, but because I thought it would be good for eliminating the kind of errors that get brokers in trouble. (It’s at this point I should point out that I’m a lawyer, also responsible for my company’s regulatory compliance).

Here’s what’s always bugged me.  A client can walk into one of my offices today and start working with Agent #1, and a different client can walk into another one of my offices later today and start working with Agent #2, and the two clients can have wildly different service experiences.  Why?  It’s the same company.  The agents have access to the same systems, tools, programs — everything my company provides.  But even so, the client will have a different experience because the agents are different. No matter what I do, no matter how great the systems I provide are, I still rely on an agent to deliver them. If the agent is great, then it’ll be fine.  But if the agent does not pay the same level of attention that I would if I were in that living room giving a listing presentation, or in that car taking a buyer on a showing, or in that conference room managing a transaction, then that client might be getting an experience that I would not be happy with.

That’s a business problem, insofar as I really want clients of my firm to have great service experiences.  But it’s also a regulatory compliance issue, because any time two clients are getting a different standard of care, you run into potential problems.  Here’s a perfect illustration: several years ago, we had a fair housing problem that came out of two testers visiting two offices on two different days and getting two different issues.  It happened that the “protected tester,” the one representing a protected class, just happened to start working with an agent who was not as strong as the agent who worked with the control tester.  So what happened? The protected tester had a worse experience, and perceived it to be based on her protected status.  But my argument was that, quite frankly, any two clients getting two different agents on two different days are going to get a different experience.  Sadly, that’s the state of the industry!

But we need to change that.  You can go into any McDonalds in the country and the fries taste the same.  Any Starbucks, the lattes taste the same.  At the Four Seasons, the rooms always have the same level of cleanliness.  So how do those companies, who have employees without nearly the training background and requirements of real estate agents, ensure such consistent customer service.

The answer is this: those companies have systems in place that employees follow which ensure a consistent delivery of service.  THIS is how you cook the fries.  THIS is how you make the coffee.  THIS is how you clean the rooms.  We don’t have that in the real estate industry.

Why?  A couple of reasons:

First, we don’t train for service.  In the industry, training almost always means sales training — how to generate leads.  Even worse, most of those sales techniques are the worst kind of manipulative nonsense, teaching agents how to exploit clients rather than service their needs.  Alternatively, we have real estate industry training on regulatory compliance, which is mostly at the licensing level and doesn’t teach an agent anything about how to do the job properly — just how to stay out of jail.  And then we have “ethics” training, which is great, except that having good ethics doesn’t mean you’re good at your job.  It’s like a restaurant that gets a clean bill of health from the board of inspection — the place might be clean, but it doesn’t mean that the food is any good.

Second, we don’t innovate systems for service.  We put all our thought and energy into creating innovative new ways to generate leads.  Think of it this way: the real estate industry took to the internet 15 years ago, and we’re pretty much still using it the same way we did back then — to generate leads.  Our websites don’t give clients service, they’re just designed to generate inquiries.  Where’s the innovation on how we actually help people buy and sell houses?  And it’s not just technology, because the most impactful innovation in the industry in the last 30 years was the agent-centric compensation model pioneered by Re/Max.  In other words, we spend a lot of energy innovating ways to make more money, or divide up the pie differently.  But we don’t innovate for service.

Third, we put too much on the agent. We can’t really blame the agents for their inability to handle the myriad responsibilities we put on them.  I have written before about the problems associated with thinking of real estate agents as salespeople, but the upshot is that real estate agents have two big jobs: (1) generate new clients, and (2) service those clients.  And both jobs require a lot of work and specialization.  Most industries don’t put such a burden on salespeople — rather, they break up the sales and service roles. Just look at the mortgage industry: you have one group of specialists to generate business (loan officers) and another to service the client’s needs (loan processors). Different skills, different needs, different people.  If we want the agents to do a better job servicing clients, we either need to take away their lead generation responsibilities or make their jobs easier by giving them help on both selling and servicing their clients.

So what do we need to do?  At my company, we’ve taken a three-pronged approach to trying to solve the “inconsistency” problem with our client service. It comes down to this:

1.  Train for Service

We need to help agents become better at their jobs.  They need better skills, they need better knowledge. We’ve created a whole series of classes built around the idea of competency — how to be better at helping clients buy and sell homes.

2.  Forge a direct relationship with clients. 

Where possible, we have tried to create a direct connection between the company and its clients. It’s amazing to me that so many brokers (including me) have such little interaction with the clients of the firm.  So what we’ve tried to do is automate systems that can generate communication between the company and the client, so that we know that the client is getting the information that we want her to have.  For example, rather than relying on an agent to run an activity report, we’ve automated it for Monday morning delivery each week. Not only does this make the agent’s job easier, but it ensures that the job actually gets done.  Similarly, we’ve written a whole series of “Orientation” pieces for clients that ensure they have been educated about the selling and buying process, rather than relying on the agents to explain it themselves. We’re not trying to eliminate the agent from the process — far from it! — but we are trying to reduce their burden by taking a more active and direct role in servicing that client’s needs.

3. Make agents jobs easier by creating systems to help them deliver better service.

Finally, we believe that we can systematize much of what agents do by using checklists that automate many of their jobs.  We call the checklists “Project Plans,” which are designed for every major step that an agent has to take to service a client: listing intake, buyer representation, transaction management, etc.  The idea is based on concepts that we came across in Atul Gawande’s great book The Checklist Manifesto, which we reviewed here.  The basic idea is simple: using checklists is a great way to ensure consistent execution.  You can identify best practices, articulate them into a plan, and then create an enforcement mechanism to ensure that agents follow it EVERY time, so that every client gets the same level of consistent service.  Honestly, this is still very much a work in progress, but we’re a lot further along than we were when we first introduced them several years ago.


Basically, the whole point of CORE is to create consistently good service, and as such it does have the intended benefit of reducing regulatory and litigation risk for brokers:

  • Better-trained agents make fewer mistakes, which generates happier clients with better results.
  • The checklists reduce the cognitive burden on agents, allowing them to focus on more important things.
  • The checklists reduce errors that could lead to liabilities (i.e., if the checklist requires the agent to check the taxes, you’ll always get the taxes right or at least have a documented attempt of who gave you the wrong information).
  • By making service more consistent, you eliminate potential fair housing problems based on disparate treatment of different clients.
  • And direct broker-client communications reduces the risk of agents miscommunicating compliance information.

If you would like to find out more about what we do at Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, or would like some copies of our checklists or other materials, just let me know.


Rules for CORE Agents #36-1/2: The Blockbusters You Need to Break Through the Blocks That Are Keeping You From Taking the Steps To Reach Your Goals Are _______________

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ve been counting up the rules from #1 to #36-1/2 for almost two years, and we’re now at the end — where you can find out why there’s a “half-rule”.   You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.


Setting goals is important.  But it’s not enough.

We’ve all become too reliant on the power of setting goals to change our behavior. All these trainers telling us to write down our goals every day and post them on our mirror.  All these people who read The Secret and set up their dream boards convinced that the universe is going to send them a lottery ticket.

Now, goal-setting is an important part of making significant changes in our life, since the very act of sitting down and writing out a goal tends to focus the mind on what you want to accomplish.  That famous “law of attraction” is really just a way of saying that our thoughts tend to affect our behavior: the more we think about the goal we want to achieve, the more we’re likely to act in a way that will help us achieve it.

The problem is not that people set goals, it’s that they ONLY set goals.  Then they just sit back, keep doing things exactly the way they always have, and just wait for good things to happen.

But you have to do more than just write down a goal – you have to actually identify the steps that will help you achieve that goal.  For example, let’s say that you goal is to lose 25 pounds.

  • Goal: Lose 25 pounds.

Go ahead and write that down on your bedroom mirror all you want, you’re not going to lose 25 pounds unless you take the specific steps that will make changes to your diet and exercise routine.  Here are some sample steps you could take:

  • Step 1: Cut out all bread and pasta.
  • Step 2: Eat a hearty breakfast every morning.
  • Step 3: Go to the gym three times a week.

So now you not only have the goal, but you’ve identified the way you’re going to achieve that goal.

But you’re not yet done.  Even identifying the steps you want to take is not enough to help you achieve your goals.  You know why?  Because the steps you’ve identified are probably things that you’ve tried to do before, and you’ve failed.  This probably isn’t your first attempt to lose weight, and in your previous attempts you might have laid out the steps you were going to take to achieve your goals.  Maybe you tried to eat breakfast every morning, or go to the gym more, but you got busy and dropped out.

In other words, you have “blocks” that are keeping you, and have always kept you, from taking the steps you need to achieve your goals.  So it’s not enough to set goals, and it’s even not enough to identify the steps that will help you achieve the goals.  The key to achieving the results you want is to go to the deeper level of identifying the obstacles, those blocks, that keep you from taking the steps to achieve your goal.

Let’s unpack that.

  • First, you have goals.
  • Second, you have steps that will help you achieve those goals.
  • Third, you have obstacles – the “blocks” — that will keep you from taking those steps, which will thereby keep you from reaching your goals.

Thus, if you eliminate the blocks, you’ll then take the steps and increase the chances of reaching your goals.

Going back to our weight-loss example, we identified three steps that would help you lose weight.  Now, let’s add some sample obstacles that might keep you from taking those steps:

  • Step 1: Cut out all bread and pasta.  Blocks: (1) there’s a lot of pasta in your house, (2) pasta is a cheap and easy lunch.
  • Step 2: Eat a hearty breakfast every morning.  Block: you’re always rushing in the morning.
  • Step 3: Go to the gym three times a week.  Block: you never have the time.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.  We have our goal, we have our steps, and now we have the blocks that we think are likely to prevent us from taking those steps.

Now comes the final part: identifying the solutions to the obstacles, which are the “blockbusters” that are going to break through those blocks and let us take the steps to achieve our goals. As you can see, some steps have many obstacles, so the challenge is to find a solution for each one.  Here are some more examples:

  • There’s a lot of pasta in the house.  That’s simple.  Throw it out, or give it away.  If you have kids or a spouse that eats the pasta, at least try to get them pasta that they like but you don’t.  Alternatively, try finding something that’s a reasonable but healthier substitute for pasta (like quinoa or whole wheat), or just resolve that you’re going to eat less of it.
  • Pasta is a cheap and easy lunch.  Find something else that’s just as easy or cheap, or realize that if you’re eating less you’re going to save some money and can afford, say, a salad or something healthy like that.
  • You’re always rushing in the morning. Every night, cut up some fruit and put it in a ziplock in the fridge.  In the morning, grab it and eat it in the car.
  • You never have the time.  This is a pretty common problem, and one way to solve it is to hire a personal trainer.  If you don’t have the money, try to find someone in the office that you can go to the gym with, and make an appointment three times a week to go together.  The appointment, just like an appointment with a trainer, will help you keep that resolve, because you’re less likely to break a commitment to someone else than you are to yourself.

You see how it works.  Maybe those solutions don’t work for you.  That’s fine.  Find a solution that does.

The key is to keep breaking down the goal into steps, then into blocks, then into blockbusting solutions, remembering the following:

  • If you find a blockbuster to the block, you’ll overcome the block.
  • If you overcome the block, you’ll take the step.
  • If you take the step, you’ll achieve the goal.

The problem most of us have is that we write down the goals, and then never actually figure out the steps. And even if we figure out the steps, we never actually identify the block to taking those steps.  And, finally, even if we identify the blocks, we never come up with the way to break through those obstacles.  That’s why most diets, and most self-improvement programs, fail.

The Half-Rule

So that’s why this final rule is only half a rule.  The biggest obstacle that’s keeping you from taking the steps to achieve your goals is…….what?  I don’t know.  You have to figure that out.  I did my half, you need to do yours.

Here’s your process:

  1. State the goal you want to reach.  The goal could be anything: doing more lead generation, closing more deals, making more money, finding a spouse, losing weight, etc.
  2. Identify the specific steps you need to take to reach that goal.
  3. Figure out the specific obstacles that will likely keep you from taking those steps.
  4. Come up with the blockbusting solution to each obstacle.
  5. Start implementing those solutions, then taking the steps, and commit to continuing to work to achieve your goals.

It’s not easy.  You still need to be committed, you still need the will power to succeed, you still have the same challenges you always had for achieving your goals.  All I’m giving you is a process, but it’s a process that will give you a much better chance of achieving your goals than simply writing them down and wishing that they come true.



Rules for CORE Agents #35: Self-Improvement Plans Fail Because They Don’t Work, Or Because They Do

We’ve all been through it.  You go to some sort of coaching or training seminar, and get inspired to make some changes in your business. You’re going to set up a whole new system for developing your sphere, or engage in two hours of lead generation a day, or join a bunch of new organizations, or whatever.  You’re going to make some changes that will completely transform your career.

A month later, you’re back to “normal.” Those training manuals?  They’re in a drawer somewhere.  The follow-up classes? You had to skip them because you had an inspection that day.  No change. No transformation.

One of two things happened.  First, maybe the program didn’t work.  You tried it, gave it a little time, didn’t get any results, and so you stopped doing it.  Let’s put aside whether you gave yourself enough time for it to work, and stipulate that if you don’t get results from the program, you’re not going to continue to put time, effort, and money into it.

More interestingly, the second reason that self-improvement programs fail is because they actually DO work.  Let’s say that you started doing the program, and you really started to see the results.  You’re making lots of new contacts, a whole bunch of new leads, and you’re almost giddy with excitement.  You had your doubts, you were worried that it all sounded good but wouldn’t actually succeed in practice, and now you’re seeing it pay off.  It really works!

But now something very strange happens – you get a little over-confident.  You marvel at how simple it was, how easy it now seems.  You can’t believe that you didn’t start doing it years ago.  But now that you’re a little busier, you start to cut corners.  Those two hours of prospecting calls?  That follow-up campaign? You don’t really have time for it, because you have so much new business already.  So maybe you’ll just take this week off to “catch up” with everything else. Just a short break.  After all, it’s so easy, you can just turn it on anytime you need to jumpstart your business.  So you’ll get through this backlog, keep that great program in your back pocket, and pull it out anytime you need it.

And you never do it again.  In other words, it worked, so you stopped doing it.  I know it sounds nuts, but it happens.  We go on diets, lose 10 pounds, and start cheating because we figure we can go back on the diet whenever we need to lose weight again.  We go on a lead generation campaign, develop a bunch of leads, and stop because all those leads need our attention. Then a month later we wonder where all our leads went.  Don’t let that happen to you.  If you start a new program, you need to give it time to work.  And if it does indeed work, then realize that you would be absolutely crazy to stop doing it.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #34: Only Embrace New Technologies That Replace Old Tools With Better Tools

Consider the plight of the poor “Realtogeek” – real estate agents who embrace new technology so tightly that they leap into every new trend and buy every shiny new gizmo that hits the market.  While the Realtosaurus reacts to the intimidation of new technologies by shutting down and ignoring them, Realtogeeks respond by elevating them as centerpiece of their business in the smug belief that all the “old school” ways of doing things are dead.

But Realtogeeks make the mistake of thinking that they’re in the technology business, not the real estate business, and so they spend too much of their time doing things that don’t actually help them acquire clients or sell homes. They don’t see the point of cultivating a sphere, or contacting FSBOs and expireds, because they’re going to generate all the leads they need from their blog, their Twitter feed, or that new online system they just bought.  They don’t pick up the phone, since, well, NO ONE talks on the phone anymore.  New technologies become important for their own sake, a security blanket that tricks the Realtogeek into thinking that he had a productive day if he spent three hours posting a great answer on Trulia Voices that is generating a lot of online buzz.

Now, I’m not saying that technology is a bad thing. You need to find a happy medium between the Realtosauruses who reject all new technologies and the Realtogeeks who embrace all of them for their own sake.  The key is to recognize that technology is just a tool, and differentiate between the tools that will help you and the tools that are a waste of your time.

Here’s the key: if a new technology allows you to do something you were already doing, but to do it faster, cheaper, or easier, then it’s a productive technology and you should learn how to use it in your business.  That is, good technologies are just tools that are better than the old tools you were already using:  smartphones are better than dumbphones, online MLS systems are better than shoeboxes full of index cards, emailing is better than mailing, scanning better than faxing, a GPS is better than a map, digital photography is better than film.  All these new technologies are great because they are just tools that give us a better way to do something we were already doing.

Conversely, non-productive technologies are tools that seduce you into spending a lot of time doing things that you never did before, like blogging and tweeting and answering online questions from people who are not, and will likely never be, your clients.  You have to avoid technologies that give you that false sense of productivity because you spent a lot of time in front of the computer without actually accomplishing anything that will generate business or service a client.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #33: You Wouldn’t Trust a Doctor Who Still Used Leaches

Consider the plight of the poor “Realtosaurus” – real estate agents who are increasingly falling behind because they stubbornly resist learning how to use modern technology.  They’re so afraid of these new technologies that they’ve overcompensated by making it an “old school” point of pride that they don’t know how to use a computer or a smartphone or the internet.  They do business the “old fashioned” way!

I think we all have to acknowledge that the time has passed when someone who doesn’t know how to use a computer is charming or colorful.  It’s just silly to stick your head in the sand and pretend that you can still be as effective and efficient without taking advantage of new technology that’s available to you.  Imagine an agent 30 years ago refusing how to use a copy machine, insisting that the “old school” way of mimeographing was good enough.

Moreover, it’s not fair to your clients. Why should clients trust an agent who can’t perform some of the basic requirements of the job – taking and enhancing digital photos, pulling comps online, creating and sending PDF documents, staying in touch through email and text?  Would you trust a doctor who trumpeted the virtues of his old school approach to using leeches and boring holes in your skull to release all the evil demons?

The reason so many of us are afraid of new technologies is that we give them too much credit.  We’re too intimidated by them, and many of us respond to that intimidation by just shutting down.  It doesn’t help that the real estate industry keeps treating “technology” as some awesome, unfathomable, omnipotent force that is segregated out as its own discrete category – we have whole conferences just devoted to “real estate technology” and whole training courses dedicated to teaching “technology” as a standalone subject.  Having a whole conference dedicated to social media is as ridiculous as a conference 25 years ago devoted to teaching people how to use answering machines, copiers, and the white pages.

Technology is not our job, it’s just a tool that we need to use in our job.  And like any tool that’s important for our business, you need to learn how to use it if you’re going to stay relevant.  Refusing to learn how to use a computer is like refusing to learn how to use a fax machine.

So stop being intimidated by new technologies. Learn how to use them, not for their own sake, but so that you can figure out how they can help you do your job.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #32: Spend Five Minutes Each Morning Organizing Your Day

If you can carve out five minutes every morning to organize your day, you’ll save yourself many, many more minutes.  I know you’re busy.  We’re all busy.  But we’re only talking about five minutes.  300 seconds!

I’m not talking about anything elaborate, just sitting down and thinking about what you want to accomplish that day, and how you’re going to do it. You’ll find that just the act of sitting and thinking for a few minutes every day will make you more organized, disciplined, and productive during the rest of the day.

Here’s why it’s important.  Very few people start each day with an organized plan  They have a general idea of what they need to do, usually built around the appointments they’ve set up or their “to do” list, but they don’t have a firm structure.

So what happens?  They start with all sorts of energy and enthusiasm to get things done, and then something unexpectedly comes up that dominates their day: a problem with a deal, an angry call from a client, an email with a request.  Whatever it is, it wasn’t even on the schedule, but it ends up becoming the main focus of their day, and they never actually get to any of the items on their supposed “to do” list.

Now, sometimes emergencies come up, and will throw even the most disciplined person off their game.  But here’s the key: someone who actually has a schedule set up is MUCH more likely to get able to get back on schedule after a disruptive event than someone without a plan.

Put it this way: you’re much more likely to get back on course if you actually HAVE A COURSE to get on. If you start the day with only a general idea of what you want to accomplish, it’s a lot easier to end up getting distracted and disrupted.

It’s like sailing a boat.  Sometimes, the wind is going to pick up and throw you off course.  But the sailor who has set a firm course about where she wants to go is going to have an easier time recovering than someone who was just “sailing around.”

So plan your day.  You don’t need to spend half an hour doing it.  You don’t need to hyper-organize your day into 15-minute increments.  Just spend five minutes gathering yourself, setting your goals, structuring your appointments, organizing your thoughts, and committing yourself to what you want to accomplish.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #31: Never Talk to Another Real Estate Agent For More Than Five Minutes

I love real estate agents. I work with them every day. I am even married to one. You probably like real estate agents, too.  They’re your colleagues, your co-workers, your friends, and the people you spend most of your time with every day.

But you should stop talking to them so much.  Why? Very simple: they’re almost certainly never going to buy or sell a house with you.  You need to spend more time with people who actually might.

Unfortunately, a lot of real estate agents spend an inordinate amount of time every day talking to other real estate agents.  We get pulled into these never-ending conversations where we complain about the market, gossip about other agents, and share war stories.  Obviously, that’s all largely wasted time, and you should do your best to extricate yourself for those traps as much as possible.

But even the “productive” conversations you have with other agents can sap your time and energy. When you’re putting together a deal with other agents, you’re likely to have long conversations with them about negotiating the offer, dealing with inspection issues, scheduling meetings, and so forth.  Those conversations are obviously important, since they help you complete transactions that are the foundation of your income, but they often take too long as you both go back and forth without ever getting to the point quickly and directly.

So here’s the rule you should follow: never talk to another agent for more than five minutes.  Anything you need to discuss – an offer, an inspection, a transactional issue, listing feedback – can be done in five minutes or less. Any more than that, and you’re just wasting time.

A great way to limit your phone calls is to use “I only have a moment” trick, which goes like this: “Hi Bob, I just wanted to call you to go over the inspection, but I only have a moment.”  Or “Hi Sue, I only have a moment, but I wanted to see if you had any feedback on the listing.”

Why is this so helpful?  Because you’ve signaled to the other agent that you need to make the conversation quick, which encourages them to get to the point quickly. It’s not rude, it’s almost flattering: you’re indicating to them that you have a busy schedule, but you’ve carved out time for this call because it’s so important.

Indeed, the other agent will probably appreciate it.  Don’t flatter yourself: she’s probably thrilled if she can get you off the phone in less than five minutes….


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #30: Better a Holiday Than a “Hollow Day”

You ever come to the end of the day, exhausted in that satisfying way that reassures you that you’ve had a good, productive day?  And then when you review what you accomplished, you realize that you spent the whole day getting a whole lot of nothing done?

I mean, you were AT work.  You were in the office. You were doing work-like things such as making photocopies and sitting in front of the computer and drinking coffee and all that.  It certainly felt like work.  But then you really take a hard look at it, and you realize that you frittered away a lot of the day.  Maybe it was because you had something really difficult to do: a call to an angry client, some paperwork drudgery, some “prospecting” that you were dreading. So you ended up spending much of the day “warming up” to the hard task.  You cleaned the desk, checked your Facebook page, meandered around the office.   You were at work all day, but you didn’t actually work.

I call these “hollow days”: days that you spend at the office working hard but accomplishing little or nothing.  The worst part of the “hollow day” is that you basically stole a day from yourself, and your family, and your life.  You could have taken off for the day and enjoyed yourself, recharging your batteries for a more productive day later in the week.  Instead, rather than take a holiday, you took a “hollow day” (you have to read that out loud to enjoy the clever wordplay).  .

So make a simple commitment to yourself.  When you’re working, work.  Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the comfort zone of feeling that you had a full, satisfying day unless you actually got real “work” done that day: (1) servicing existing clients: taking out buyers, preparing listing presentations or CMAs, negotiating deals, completing paperwork, etc., (2) developing new clients: working your sphere, following up with leads, preparing mailings, etc., or (3) learning: training, weekly meetings, reviewing inventory, doing market analysis.

Nothing else is “work.” Chatting with other agents? Not work.  Picking up laundry?  Not work.  Surfing Facebook?  Not work.

And to be fair, make the reciprocal commitment: when you’re not working, don’t work!  You’re entitled to have a life.

The point is this: working is fine.  Playing is fine.  Do one or the other.  But don’t try to do both at the same time, or you’ll do both things terribly.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #29: Wednesday is the Enemy of All Diets

You ever go on a diet? I’ve been on lots and lots of them, and they all go kind of the same way.

I wake up Monday morning, full of enthusiasm to start the new diet.  I have that all-important first meal of the day, something with lots of fiber and all that.  I eat fruit.  At lunch, I have a salad.  I don’t snack.  At dinner, some lean chicken or fish and some steamed vegetables. I go to bed proud of myself.

Tuesday, same thing.  Fruit, salad, lean meats, steamed vegetables. I go to bed fired up about putting together two great days in a row.

Then comes Wednesday.  I get a late start, so I skip breakfast.  At 10AM, starving, I grab an egg sandwich with cheese, and some hash browns, which are most definitely NOT on this new diet of mine.  Come lunchtime, an odd thing happens: I decide that I’ve already “blown the day” with that bad breakfast, and so I figure that I might as well take the rest of the day off and start again on Thursday.  So I have a pizza.  Not a slice of pizza.  A WHOLE PIZZA.  And then at dinner, I go completely off the rails with whatever taste of heaven I’ve been denying yourself all week: steak, cream sauces, whatever.

Now it’s Thursday.  The weekend is looming, I know I’m going to want to go out to dinner or drink or do something that’s not on the diet.  And, after all, I’ve already “blown the week”!  Soooooo……..more pizza, burgers, whatever I can stuff down my big fat pie-hole.

Bottom line: Wednesday is the enemy of all diets.

Okay, so maybe it’s not ALWAYS Wednesday. Maybe it’s Thursday.  Maybe it’s the weekend.  The idea is that anyone who has ever gone on a diet, or started some sort of self-improvement program, has at some point had a bad day. You were all full of energy and enthusiasm for making the change in your diet, or work routine, or personal habits, and got “on a roll.”  Then you had a bad day that killed your momentum.  For some reason, in your mind, you decided that you had to be PERFECT.  And if you weren’t perfect, you just threw out the whole program and resolved to start again at some point when you could be perfect.

Stop doing that.  If you want to make a change in your life, then you have to accept that it’s going to take time. You’re going to have good days, and you’re going to have bad days.  The key is to have more good than bad, and to recognize that every day is a new opportunity to start a new streak.

Stop trying to be perfect.  Try to have more good days than bad days, especially if the bad day is just another Wednesday.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.